SCI Foundation To Attend Times Square Ivory Crush

elephant1 On June 19, 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will host its second ivory crush event in the middle of New York’s most populated intersection: Times Square.  The event will be attended by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, USFWS Director Dan Ashe, New York State Senator Brad Hoylman and other special guests.  Friday, one ton of seized ivory, with additional ivory pieces from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, will be crushed in front of millions of onlookers. Ivory has been destroyed in a number of countries this year, including China, Ethiopia, and Kenya. An ivory crush is used to raise awareness about poaching of African elephants and illegal ivory trade. USFWS believes that crushing ivory sends a message to traffickers and their customers that the United States will not tolerate illegal trade. USFWS also hopes the crush will serve to educate the public around the world, while urging them to not buy products made from ivory that could be contributing to the poaching crisis. Others, however, are unsure if crushing ivory stockpiles is an effective demonstration or if it only perpetuates the problem. The crushing or burning of huge stockpiles may create the perception that ivory is rarer than it is, thus artificially driving up the price. The symbolism of the crush, though powerful, may not outweigh the potential harm. sitemgr_photo_292402 Much of this debate is characterized by a lack of data. Tom Milliken, Director of TRAFFIC, believes the recent set of high profile destructions should be closely monitored to see if they have any real impact on ivory demand and price. But assessing this is tricky considering the number of factors that influence the market. “The jury is still out on what effect destruction events like this have on the dynamics of illegal ivory trade,” Milliken said. “We need to monitor the situation closely…The evidence should tell us if we are on the right track, or if all of this supply reduction has been counter-productive.” If all stockpiled ivory, over 800 tons, were to be destroyed, the ivory being carried by live elephants would become extremely rare and valuable.  When this value skyrockets, as it has for rhinoceros horn, poaching pressure on elephants will escalate. Further, the ivory rightfully belongs to the African nations in which it originated. It is not the USFWS’s to destroy and the crush essentially denies African nations the ability to benefit from their own natural resource. This is why we should not continue destroying elephant ivory and encouraging the world to do the same. 2009-11-19 05.19.10 Elephant poaching is at its highest level in decades and governments need to establish the necessary mechanisms to address their countries’ weak points. The work of law enforcement is an important part of the overall effort, but still we must work to end consumer demand. Whether that is through an awareness event such as the ivory crush or through grassroots education programs; governments, wildlife non-profits and the private sector must join together in the fight. SCI Foundation will travel to witness the crush and deliver our message to anyone that will listen. The Time Square Ivory Crush will take place at 10:30 a.m. and will be open to the public.

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